News Releases

Crucial Legislation Would Improve Cancer Patients’ Quality of Life

Bill Aims to Expand Palliative Care Research, Access and Awareness

April 23, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C. – April 23, 2013 – Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) and Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) introduced legislation today that would improve the experience of cancer patients and their families by better coordinating their care and addressing the often debilitating symptoms of treatment.  The bill would put in place the building blocks necessary to make palliative care widely available to people with serious diseases during and after treatment by expanding research, access and public awareness.

The “Patient Centered Quality of Life Act” (H.R. 1666) supports the growing demand for palliative care, which is specialized medical care that focuses on care coordination and relief from pain, stress and other symptoms of treatment for a life-threatening disease such as cancer. The legislation acts on clinical research from the American Cancer Society demonstrating that patients receiving palliative care spend less time in intensive care, have fewer hospital readmissions, and generally experience a better quality of life during treatment.

Palliative care is appropriate at any age and any stage of a serious illness, and can be provided alongside curative treatment. It is delivered by trained specialists who work together with doctors and nurses in a team-based approach that focuses on the patients’ needs, explains treatment options and gives patients and their families a voice in realizing their treatment goals. The Cleaver-Bachus bill would facilitate and expand federal research into palliative care; support training for nurses, nurse practitioners and other allied health professionals to effectively practice palliative care; and convene health professionals, patients, public and private payers and state and federal health officials for a national summit to develop tools and model best practices for providing palliative care.

“From the moment of diagnosis, palliative care gives people with serious conditions and their families a voice in determining the course of their care and a team-based approach to manage their symptoms and meet their goals for treatment. It improves patients’ quality of life, can help patients live longer and can save the system money,” said Chris Hansen, president of ACS CAN, the advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society. “Millions of patients suffer from pain, shortness of breath, nausea and other symptoms of chronic disease with no idea that palliative care can relieve their symptoms and help them focus on beating their disease.”

The Cleaver-Bachus bill was first introduced last year. It complements a bill introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) last month known as the “Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act” (S.641 and H.R. 1339). That bill addresses the deficit in palliative care training offered in the nation’s medical schools by creating new incentives for the training and development of interdisciplinary health professionals in the field.

Public opinion research reveals that seven in ten Americans do not know what palliative care is. However, once the public understands what it can provide for patients, 92 percent report they would be highly likely to ask for palliative care for themselves or their families if they had a serious illness, and 92 percent say patients should have access to this type of care at hospitals.

ACS CAN, the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, supports evidence-based policy and legislative solutions designed to eliminate cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage elected officials and candidates to make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer with the training and tools they need to make their voices heard. For more information, visit www.acscan.org.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Lauren Walens or Steven Weiss
American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
Phone: (202) 661-5763 or (202) 661-5711
Email: Lauren.Walens@cancer.org or Steve.Weiss@cancer.org

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For media inquiries, please contact:
Steve Weiss
Phone: (202) 661-5711
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Alissa Crispino
Phone: (202) 661-5772
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Lauren Walens
Phone: (202) 661-5763
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